BP Oil Spill Testimony Points To Ignored Warnings

Last month, BP employee, John Guide, told an investigative panel he ignored an email warning of a significant gas flow risk in BP’s “wild Gulf well” just prior to what is now being described as the worst oil spill in United States history, said NOLA. Eleven men were killed in the blast that led to the spill.

The employee’s boss, David Sims, told the panel yesterday that he did not pay attention to the gas flow warning and ignored a different email discussing the same problem with the well design’s safety, said NOLA. A lawyer for a BP contractor accused Sims of lying under oath, said NOLA.

The issue surrounds centralizers, devices placed in the well to ensure cement barriers are set evenly along well walls to stop gas from entering, explained NOLA. The email involved an engineer strongly suggesting the team managing the well use additional centralizers, following models by Halliburton, the cementing contractor, said NOLA. It was at this point that Sims was accused of lying. Sims testified that he did not notice the Halliburton model indicating the significant gas flow risk and BP attorneys argued the warning was buried in the report and was unclear, said NOLA.

Guide testified that he sent Sims a number of emails and left a message on his cell phone; however, last month Guide testified that he had not seen the Halliburton report until after the accident; the report was emailed to Guide well before, on April 15, wrote NOLA. A day later, Guide superceded colleague orders to place 15 additional centralizers in the hole, saying that the wrong centralizers were sent to the rig and would take an additional 10 hours to install, reported NOLA; instead, six centralizers were installed. Sims testified money was involved in the decision-making; a Transocean lawyer said BP was more than $40 million over budget, explained NOLA.

Meanwhile, this followed with Brett Cocales, a BP engineer, emailing co-worker, Brian Morel: “Who cares, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine and we’ll get a good cement job” with fewer centralizers, quoted NOLA.

Earlier this week we wrote that the inquiry had become rather contentious, according to the Washington Post, which said that for most of Tuesday afternoon’s proceedings, a BP attorney grilled Jesse Gagliano, of Halliburton, about the well’s cement design and Gagliano’s suggestion that BP use 21 centralizers to ensure casing was centered before cement was pumped.

According to NOLA, BP’s centralizer choices were just one of many just prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion that point to hazardous BP choices. For instance, there is BP’s decision to remove what NOLA described as “heavy drilling mud,” that might have stopped the gas. NOLA cited the Times-Picayune, which broke with news in early May, that rig workers argued over an order to remove the mud—a barrier to the gas—before inserting the well’s last plug. That decision was made just days before the explosion, changing a prior decision made four days before the explosion, to run a pressure test prior to swapping the heavy mud with significantly lighter seawater, said NOLA.

Another controversial BP decision involved it sending home employees from contractor Schlumberger hours before the accident, said NOLA. Schlumberger was on standby monitoring how cement barriers set in the hole; however, BP opted against running the cement bond log prior to completing a job that would indicate if a test was required, explained NOLA. During yesterday’s questioning, a federal Interior Department investigator asked if Schlumberger staff were relieved to make room for BP and Transocean officials (Transocean owns the rig), said NOLA, noting that Sims—BP’s manager for Gulf of Mexico oil drilling operations—was among the visitors.

Earlier this week, we wrote that technology also appears to have hindered efforts to stop the Macondo well’s flow. It seems workers lacked appropriate technical gear and were unable to receive large emails from those on land, said the Post, also citing testimony made before an investigative federal panel.

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